Citizen Staff Writer
The Rincon/University High baseball team will have plenty to look forward to over the next three years.
This year has been a taste of things to come as freshmen Forest Chapman, Zach Smutzer and John West have made an immediate impact for the Rangers (9-9).
Rincon won eight games in 2008 after winning a combined six games in 2006 and 2007.
Second-year coach Britt Echols said this year has been a lot easier for him than his first.
“We expect the playoffs,” Echols said. “You never know what could happen. Those three guys are doing what we’ve wanted them to do. They can handle this spot and they all love being here.”
Chapman, an outfielder and leadoff hitter, leads the team in average (.500), hits (35), runs (27), RBIs (31), triples (5) and steals (10).
“This year has been about good defense and timely hitting,” Chapman said. “It’s good to have the bottom of the lineup getting on base. It’s been good all around.”
Chapman had a feeling he’d be on varsity after working out with the team during summer and fall.
Smutzer spends a lot of time practicing with his younger siblings, Josh, 12 and Jacob, 11.
He has a .426 batting average with 20 RBIs and seven doubles.
“I was shocked, I didn’t think I’d make it,” Smutzer said when he was told he’d be on varsity. “It’s an honor to play with the older kids.”
Smutzer, a first baseman, has a future goal to be a pitcher as his high school career progresses.
“I’m starting at first base but whenever they need me, I’ll pitch,” he said. “By this summer, I’ll play both.”
Echols said he hopes to develop Chapman, Smutzer and West into future pitchers.
West, an outfielder, looks forward to being a potential leader when he’s an upperclassman.
He said he’s learned from everyone on the team, especially junior Reece Stangl.
“He’s just the life of the program,” West said. “When he’s gone, I’ll have to take his place and be more vocal.”
West is hitting .283 with 16 RBIs, two doubles, a triple and a home run.
Echols said West has not committed an error this season.
“(West) can judge a ball like no other,” Smutzer said, who’s played ball with West since Little League.
Chapman sees the Rangers on the verge of achieving their goal of reaching the Class 5A Division II state tournament.
“It would mean a lot,” Chapman said. “We haven’t been there in a while. It would be a motivation to do better, something to build on. We’re starting to get our name out there.”